Construction sector devises plan to brace for Brexit


Major players in the UK construction industry have today published a plan to help brace the sector for tighter migration controls after Brexit.

Building After Brexit: An Action Plan for Industry identifies the need for construction to adopt a twin-track strategy: growing investment in the domestic workforce and driving up productivity, while working with Government to agree how to maintain access to migrant workers to give it the breathing space to adapt.

Published by a pan-industry group the action plan details specific steps the construction industry, government and CITB must take to lessen the impact of Brexit, based on extensive research undertaken since the EU referendum.

Recommendations include:

  • Attract talent by raising apprenticeship starts and completions, creating pathways into construction for under-represented groups and providing better work experience opportunities.
  • Retain the workforce by supporting older workers to stay in the industry, upskilling the existing workforce and offering improved mental health support.
  • Be productive by developing a Future Skills Strategy to identify the skills required to modernise the industry, drive digitalisation forward and boost investment in modern methods of construction.

Steve Radley, Policy Director at CITB, says: ‘Construction needs a twin-track strategy, increasing investment in the domestic workforce and working with Government to agree how we can maintain access to migrant workers to give it the breathing space to adapt to changing rules.”

‘The latest forecast has revealed over 168,000 new jobs will be created over the next five years and with a likely post-Brexit reduction to the availability of foreign workers, the industry must act now to avoid widening the skills gaps.

‘We must do more to attract new talent to the sector and get better at retaining and upskilling the current workforce. Finally, the sector must fully embrace digital skills in order to become more productive and mitigate the widening skills gap.’

Alasdair Reisner, Chief Executive at CECA, says: ‘The date for leaving the European Union is rapidly approaching and employers are finding it harder and harder to recruit the right people for their business.

‘Recruitment is already very difficult for some key roles and this will be exacerbated once migration from the EU is reduced post-Brexit.

‘We must work together, as an industry and with Government to target these gaps; boosting UK-based recruitment and training while looking to sensible migration from the rest of the world to meet demand.’

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, says:The single biggest issue keeping construction employers awake at night is the skills shortage. If we’re going to address this skills gap post-Brexit, the whole industry needs to step up and expand their training initiatives. Even Sole Traders can offer short term work experience placements and large companies should be aiming to ensure at least 5 per cent of their workforce are trainees or apprentices.

‘But realistically speaking, the UK construction sector can’t satisfy its thirst for skilled labour via domestic workers alone. With record low levels of unemployment, we’ll always need a significant number of migrant workers too - particularly in London and the south east.

‘The Government needs to work with construction to amend its Immigration White Paper and rethink the current definition of low-skilled workers. Level 2 tradespeople play a vital role in the sector and would currently be excluded, which is wrong. We urge Ministers to engage with the construction industry to help improve these proposals.'

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